Despite last week's 10-point outing, the problem for San Diego does not lie on the offensive side of the ball, as the Bolts have averaged almost 30 points a game.
The real worries are on defense. The Chargers have allowed two game-winning drives in the waning moments of games. Last week wasn't much different, as the defense allowed the Dolphins to run nearly six minutes off the clock to seal the win.
The most obvious explanation for the defensive drop-off is the absence of three-time Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman. However, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick focuses on the Bolts' success while downplaying the effects of Merriman's absence.
"[Merriman] is a terrific player but I think they have gotten good production out of both kids that have played over there the last couple of weeks," Belichick said. "They still have a very good pass rush all the way across the board. They like to bring those outside linebackers a lot and I would say if anything they have been bringing them just as much, if not more, than when he was in there."
Jyles Tucker and Marques Harris are the linebackers Belichick spoke of, although Tucker will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Harris has registered 11 tackles this season along with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Coach Bill Belichick
Never one to let his team overlook an opponent, Belichick is not focused on the players the Chargers are missing. Instead, he is setting his sights on San Diego's many stars. One player, in particular, has grabbed his attention -- QB Philip Rivers.
Belichick has watched Rivers mature and develop into a reliable and forceful quarterback. Rivers made a lasting impression on both his teammates and Belichick after playing in the AFC Championship Game with a torn ACL.
"I think Rivers has really grown as a quarterback," Belichick said. "I thought especially last year in the playoff game, playing with the injury. I thought he showed a lot of toughness and grit… he made some excellent throws and played with a lot of toughness and courage in that game. He made some tough throws under pressure, not only the pressure of the game being the AFC Championship but under some pass rush pressure, getting up after some hits and just hanging in there. I have a lot of respect for him."
Not only has Rivers amped up his game this season, ranking second in the NFL with a 103.0 passer rating, but he has lifted up the entire offense, as well. Prior to the 10-point dud in Miami, the Chargers were averaging more than 34 points per game.
Belichick has been successful in scheming against San Diego's offense, limiting the Chargers to 14 points in Week 2 last season and just 12 points in the championship game. Nonetheless, he's bracing for a potent offense on Sunday night.
"They have had a lot of production," Belichick said. "[Rivers] is getting the ball down the field. They lead the league in yards per catch. His accuracy, his decision-making and overall production has continued to improve. He's tough. With their running game and the skill players they have, they are a hard team to defend and that's why they are scoring so much."
As Belichick gets his team ready for the match-up, his observation forces him to take a strong approach against the Bolts. He has seen the Bolts perform and knows his team must be ready to make the right adjustments.
"We have to do a good job offensively of taking care of the ball. They are a good pass-rush team and good turnover team in the secondary. Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer [are] two of the most physical corners that we will play against. Clinton Hart is one of the most physical safeties in the league, too. They do a lot of things well. They have a lot of talent and I am sure we will be running into a hornet's nest in terms of energy and excitement down there Sunday night."